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17. November 2022
Womxn in Tech: Embracing Experience and Taking Ownership in Engineering
As an HR software company, it’s not surprising that many Personios have an HR background – even when they don’t work in HR. Laura Kirwan, an Engineering Manager based in our Dublin office, is one such example. “I definitely have an unconventional engineering background. I started my career in HR, and, ironically, that’s when I discovered my passion for technology.”
Her work on an HR systems project initially sparked her interest, prompting a move into the tech industry as a Quality Assurance Engineer. “I started practicing in my spare time, leveling up my technical skills so I could apply them more in my work.” Laura worked her way up from Functional to Senior QA Engineer, and then QA Manager, over her six years at software giant Workday. “I started to take on leadership responsibilities, eventually moving into a people leadership role. Turns out that I really enjoy building and supporting high-performing teams!”
But those early years weren’t always smooth sailing for Laura, a woman in the male-dominated tech world. “I remember feeling pretty daunted at first, and hesitant to take on big projects. Luckily I had some great female role models and a company that supported women. Both of these had a big impact on my own career growth – I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”
The experience showed her first hand the impact that female role models and sponsors can have on the success of women in the tech space. “I’ve seen the value that diverse teams can bring to the business, especially in terms of innovation, problem solving, and an overall diversity of thought. It’s a game changer.”
When she first joined Personio, it was clear that there was room for improvement. “Quite early in my Personio career, I saw that hiring women in tech was an area we could do better in. So I partnered with a few colleagues who were equally passionate about this topic, and we started getting involved in initiatives to enact some change.” Together with the Diversity Committee, Laura and her teammates reviewed Personio’s technical recruitment processes, championing internal education to help reduce unconscious biases and creating more diverse hiring panels. “I’ve enjoyed having open conversations with my colleagues in the engineering space. Even a chat over coffee helps increase awareness of the barriers and biases that women in tech face.”
These improvements haven’t just come from individuals and committees, but have also been supported at the top levels of Personio’s leadership. “It’s been awesome to see the response of our senior leadership team, how they’ve really championed this area and supported our ideas on how to improve.”
Given this, it comes as no surprise that a strong culture was a major factor in Laura’s decision to join the company. “The more I learned about Personio, the more I knew that this company was aligned with my own values and the way I wanted to work.” And the more familiar with our values she’s become, the more they’ve resonated with her. “One of my favorites is #Transparency. It’s something I value so much from my peers and leaders, and one that I aim to live every day with my own team. By being transparent, together we can collectively find the path forward from any problem, and everyone can then play a role in executing on the solution.”
Choosing Personio was also an opportunity to get back to the HR roots of her early career. “I was first excited about the mission of Enabling Better Organisations, and helping to free up HR teams from manual and repetitive tasks. I love to work on products and projects that have an impact, and Personio’s is one I really believe in.”
Switching to Personio also enabled her to continue growing her career, both as a people leader and an engineer. “I knew this was a company where I could work on challenging engineering and product development projects. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.” Now she’s an Engineering Manager in the Recruiting tribe, helping to build the products that enable our customers to find and attract the right talent to their organisations. “My team is responsible for the Job Posting and Promotion space. We develop the product that allows Talent teams to attract candidates efficiently, so they can get the most out of their recruiting budgets and efforts.”
In fact, one of the first projects Laura and her team worked on was Personio’s auto-posting feature. “It was a high-impact feature for our customers, automating manual processes and helping them save money. On the engineering and product development side, it was very complex and involved multiple teams, both internally and externally. It was a great way to build relationships and kick off my time at Personio.”
Now, after nearly a year and a half here, Laura has settled in. “My engineering teammates are an incredibly smart, passionate group of people who are constantly innovating and solving problems in unprecedented ways.” And, together, they’re tackling the many interesting challenges that come with working at one of Europe’s fastest-growing and most valuable tech companies. “We work in a highly collaborative product development environment, with engineers, product managers, product designers, and UX researchers all working together to define what we want to build and then bringing it to life.”
“We’re empowered to take full ownership here – there are no handovers. Engineers are involved in every step of the process, and can have a big influence on both the technical and functional design of the product that we build. It all plays into our culture of ‘You build it, you run it.’” For Laura and her team, it’s an opportunity to take ownership and make an impact as they all continue growing their careers.
Now that she’s established in her tech career, what advice would Laura give to women who are just starting out in the tech world? “Get as much hands-on experience as you can, particularly if you’re working in engineering! Trying – and failing – will teach you more, and faster, than anything else.”
If you’re looking to start or advance your career in tech, take a look at Personio! We’re hiring multiple roles in our Product, Design, and Engineering teams – explore our open roles here.
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